Some art is a laughing matter : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread

Posted on Tue, Jan. 07, 2003 story:PUB_DESC

By Dave Lieber Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Despite what some area politicians may tell you, I'm no idiot. I have an Ivy League education, which in Texas, I understand, is not as prestigious as going to Texas A&M. But I mention it because I know a little something about painting, music, sculpture, theater and other fine arts.

As part of my classical education, I spent a lot of time in modern-art museums gazing at gobs of paint splattered on canvases. Even with my fancy-pants education, I still look at these artworks and mutter, "I could do that. Why is that there?"

If Michelangelo could spend four years lying on his back atop a scaffold to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, nobody has to explain to me why that is an artwork of unbelievable beauty. But if Jackson Pollock had a spat with his lover and was in such a bad mood that he poured paint all over the canvas, I will look at the product and think, "Boy, he sure fooled some rich person into paying too much for that."

When the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth reopened last month, I was very proud that the city I call home has one more fabulous place that I can use to prove to my relatives elsewhere that we do not live in Yahooville. But I also knew that the slogan for the museum should be "I could do that. Why is that there?"

One area art critic put me in my place when he wrote: "About modern art, people sometimes say: 'I could have done that.' But they didn't do it, didn't even think of it. Modern art is all about seeing new things and seeing old things in new ways. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is a marvelous new place to do both."

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003


Recently, I brought two of my favorite people to see the new museum building -- my 5-year-old son, Austin, and his longtime friend, 7-year-old Dakota Wing of Keller. I have tried to instill in Austin a sense of art beyond crayons. He owns an artist's kit to match my own. In recent weeks, we have visited the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum, where we bring out our sketch sets and try to copy a piece of art we both like.

Dakota, on the other hand, is not much of a museum visitor. He is more of a little cowboy who knows his way around a rodeo. But like any good cowboy, he is always game for a new adventure.

On this trip, we first admired the new building, which is quite terrific. The boys really liked the rock pond outside the big glass windows. Cowboy Dakota remarked, "They should put some trout in there."

But as we journeyed throughout the museum, I noticed that the boys were confused.

"Did he paint it?" Austin asked in front of one painting. "It looks like he just threw the paint on there."

In front of a sculpture, Austin noted, "That's just a piece of a car!"

"Look how easy that is," Dakota said in front of another painting that looked as if the artist had started to paint but never got around to finishing. Most of the canvas was blank.

"I want to draw that ... and that ... and that," Austin said, pointing at many different pieces.

Dakota, for whom we had brought an extra paint set, was excited, too. He said: "I want to draw as many things I can!"

We started in front of the first painting you see near the entrance, Robert Motherwell's Stephen's Iron Cross. I'll describe it by calling it a giant Rorschach test where you see large black shapes but you're not sure what they are.

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

As the boys sat on the floor and began drawing, a woman in gray woolen pants and a sweater walked up behind them and in a rather loud voice told her male companion: "We had the restoration person give us a lecture, and there's a controversy over whether you restore it or you let the paint have a life of its own. By the way, it's a ballerina."

In museums like this, I like listening to the art snobs more than looking at the art. First, how can she be so certain that these black blobs were a ballerina? Besides, why would a painting of a ballerina be called Iron Cross? Second, I believe she was just showing off for her friend. She got to go on a special tour. Wow. She also knew about all the arguments relating to the way the paint had dried. Wow again.

Soon the boys and I moved on to the other painting they wanted to draw -- Ellsworth Kelly's Curved Red on Blue. The boys wanted to draw it because it looks like a question mark -- except as Dakota pointed out, "The painter forgot the dot."

As the boys sat on a bench and began to draw, I walked over to the wall plaque and read the following: "Although the form initially appears as a question mark without its dot, it is difficult to identify the exact source of the curve. Kelly has acknowledged Curved Red on Blue as a seminal work that opened up a career-long investigation of the curve and its graphic possibilities."

Just then, Gray Woolen Pants walked by again and stood behind the boys.

"Look at this and focus," she lectured her companion. "Now move your head very slowly. Do you see the figure transpose? Your brain tells you it moved. Look at it really hard."

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

I felt like shouting, "Lady, it's just a half-finished question mark! You could go to any pool hall in Texas, drink a couple of beers and do the same thing with a big neon beer sign!"

But I just kept quiet and watched the boys draw. They were having fun. I hope they learned an important lesson about art. Art is often beautiful. But it can also be funny. Perhaps the funniest part is the people who stand around and act so serious about such silly things.

Dave Lieber's Column Appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

I was never so amused as when I was at the Contemporary Art place in New Orleans and saw a beautiful large vase--with holes all over it. LOLOLOLOL! Seemed to say it all about a great deal of contemporary art. If I buy a vase, it has to be capable of holding more than dried flower arrangements or just sitting there, looking cute. I don't want to live in a museum of impractical, unusable things. All my paintings, pictures and prints are identifiable.

I used to paint in oils when I was fairly young. One of these days I might do some splashing contemporary stuff, take about five minutes or so, have them nicely framed and see what people say.

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

let the cats do the painting. they might like a new diversion in their lives.


-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

Vegetable dyes-hmmm!

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

I saw on Animal Planet (some something) where this otter got treats for messing around in the veggie dye and then wandering across big canvasses that were spread out on the ground for him. I think the proceeds from his "art" went to a wildlife fund. This was the same show where a guy was making collages out of dried goose poo -- and getting paid A LOT of money for his art. When I have more time, I'll see if I can come up with net articles about either of these stories.

Why Animal Planet? I've been trying to catch up with my mending, and prime time, mainstream TV has gotten too annoying for me. The last time I had it on, there was a program where a bunch of homosexuals (?) were trying to pick out a couch, but none of them seemed to have any taste or money. At least when I have Animal Planet on, the kitty curls up on the couch and watches, with only an occasional meow when there are huge birds on the screen.

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2003

I've noticed over the last few days that the gray-striped squirrel is the only critter interested in TV recently. And he fixates on helicopters and planes (against the sky). I must watch him around my shotgun.

-- Anonymous, January 08, 2003

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